Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
7 min read
The adrenal glands, which are sometimes called suprarenal glands, are small glands that sit atop your kidneys. They produce hormones that help regulate your metabolism, immune system, and blood pressure. They also help manage your nervous system and stress levels.
The adrenals glands consist of two parts: the cortex and the medulla. Each is responsible for producing different hormones. When your adrenal glands fail to function properly, you may experience some health issues, including what’s known as adrenal fatigue.
Your adrenal glands release hormones right into your bloodstream. Many of the hormones produced by the adrenal glands are connected to the body’s response to various stressors. These stressors can be physical, biochemical, hormonal, emotional, mental – the list goes on. The point is that your body produces hormones that help these stressors.
Here’s how this works. Your adrenal glands produce these hormones in response to signals from the brain – specifically, the hypothalamus sends a signal to the pituitary gland, which then sends a signal to the adrenal glands to produce the needed hormones.
Your adrenal glands produce cortisol, which is sometimes referred to as the “stress hormone.” Cortisol serves many important functions for your health and has effects on the immune system, the nervous system, the cardiovascular system, and more. But it earns its distinction as the “stress hormone” from the way it manages your body’s response to stress. However, if cortisol levels remain too high for too long, that can lead to stress becoming an issue.
Your adrenal glands produce hormones that are important to your body’s optimal functioning. While “adrenal fatigue” isn’t an actual medical diagnosis, it is a term that describes the experience of your adrenal glands not producing enough of these vitally important hormones. The theory behind adrenal fatigue is that high levels of stress prevents your adrenal glands from being able to keep up its hormone production. In other words, your stress levels are so high that your body can’t maintain hormonal balance.
The fact that adrenal fatigue isn’t an official condition doesn’t mean the symptoms you’re experiencing aren’t very real.
Those who believe in adrenal fatigue argue that high stress is the culprit. The theory is that during times of high stress your adrenal glands can’t keep up with the increased hormonal demands, since high stress means more cortisol production. As a result of not getting the hormones it needs, your body starts to experience pesky, frustrating symptoms. Some of these symptoms include:
Depending on the severity of the adrenal fatigue, it can take months – or even up to two years – to restore proper balance. If you have any of these symptoms, it’s advisable to talk to your doctor about whether you’re experiencing a form of adrenal insufficiency.
Fortunately, there are some vitamin supplements that can support the health of your adrenal glands. Let’s review some of them below.
Vitamin C, which is also known as ascorbic acid, is great for adrenal support. Indeed, high levels of vitamin C are stored in the adrenal glands, and vitamin C helps support the production of cortisol. When your adrenal glands don’t have enough vitamin C, they actually try to create even more cortisol. Maintaining adequate vitamin C levels can help manage cortisol levels and keep the adrenal glands functioning properly. Studies show that depleted vitamin C levels can be associated with adrenal degeneration. Moreover, vitamin C is needed for the conversion of dopamine to norepinephrine, which plays an important role in the body’s stress management.
Care/of offers an easy-to-digest vitamin C supplement, formulated for absorption.
B vitamins perform many important functions in the body. They support proper neurological functioning, red blood cell formation, and the synthesis of DNA and RNA. They can also support energy metabolism in the nervous system. Importantly, they can also help regulate cortisol levels. For example, vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid all promote the production of GABA, which is a neurotransmitter that manages cortisol levels.
Care/of’s B-complex supplement contains the active forms of B vitamins and supports the nervous system.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin with antioxidant properties. Its antioxidant properties help the body manage oxidative stress. This bodes well for vitamin E’s potential helpfulness in addressing adrenal fatigue, since adrenal fatigue may be connected to issues with adequate antioxidant levels.
Vitamin D supports bone health and immune function. Studies suggest that vitamin D supplementation can reduce cortisol levels, which may be beneficial for the adrenal glands. Still, despite its importance, vitamin D deficiency is surprisingly common – and such a deficiency can lead to heightened cortisol levels. Care/of offers an excellent, easy-to-digest vitamin D3 supplement that can help treat a deficiency.
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body, and it’s vitally important for bone health. It may also help alleviate symptoms of adrenal fatigue, since it essentially functions as a shock absorber for the adrenal glands during high stress times. Care/of’s Calcium Plus supplement includes vitamin D and K2 for better absorption.
When it comes to magnesium, the science is quite clear. Magnesium deficiencies can negatively affect energy and sleep regularity, and they can lead to more headaches. Furthermore, magnesium has been shown to have a calming effect on the nervous system. This study, as one example, found that long-term magnesium supplementation helped lower stress levels for people who had been experiencing mental and physical stress.
Care/of’s magnesium supplement includes 72 trace minerals and is sourced from Irish seawater.
Rhodiola rosea is what’s known as an adaptogen – an herb that helps your body respond to occasional stressors. It grows in the mountainous regions of Europe and Asia, and it boasts a number of health benefits. Some include: Supporting a healthy response to occasional stress Supporting endurance and recovery after exercise Supporting mood Promoting mental energy and focus Acting as a buffer to stress-related mental and physical fatigue
Its stress-relieving properties may have a positive effect on the health of the adrenal glands. Care/of’s rhodiola – dubbed “The Cosmonaut” – is sourced from the Altai Mountains of Siberia and Russia and is available in 30-day packs.
Commonly known as “Indian Ginseng,” ashwagandha has for centuries been part of the Indian practice of Ayurvedic medicine. It’s an adaptogen that’s been shown to support sexual wellness, muscle strength recovery, and endurance. It’s also been shown to relieve occasional stress. Studies show that ashwagandha can also reduce cortisol levels. One study found that those who consumed the ashwagandha extract saw reduced cortisol levels and a 44% improvement in mental health compared to the placebo group. By managing cortisol levels, ashwagandha may help alleviate adrenal fatigue. Care/of’s ashwagandha is harvested in India and is excellent quality.
Holy basil is yet another adaptogen, and studies have shown it can help manage stress levels. One study found that it managed stress levels by reducing cortisol levels. Still another study found that it may block the release of cortisol. It may also promote immune function.
In addition to trying the supplements listed above, there are some lifestyle adjustments you can make that may combat adrenal fatigue – mainly through reducing stress.
You can reduce stress through stress management techniques, including deep breathing, yoga, meditation, and exercise. Making sure you eat a proper diet with adequate nutrients can also go a long way. The importance of adequate sleep can’t be overstated, and sleep deprivation does in fact lead to elevated cortisol levels.
Another way you can reduce stress is through reducing your use of stimulates, such as caffeine, over time. And you’ll feel better overall if you stay hydrated.
Your adrenal glands produce and release hormones that your body needs in order to function properly. One of the hormones produced by the adrenal glands is cortisol, which is sometimes dubbed the “stress hormone,” because it is created in response to various stressors. If your stress becomes elevated, though, and your adrenal glands are asked to do too much, you may start to experience some health side effects. One theory for these side effects is what’s called “adrenal fatigue.” You can reduce stress and cortisol levels by incorporating some of the supplements above, and therefore alleviate some of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue. You can also reduce cortisol levels through some lifestyle adjustments, including stress-reducing strategies, changes in diet, improved hydration, and better sleep habits.